In order to pursue a discrimination or retaliation lawsuit under most federal laws, an employee must first file a discrimination complaint that contains the essential allegations against his or her employer. This is known as “exhausting administrative requirements” before pursuing a claim in court. In Wisconsin, an employee who wishes to pursue a discrimination claim must either file a discrimination complaint with the Wisconsin Equal Rights Division (ERD) or a charge of discrimination with the United State Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). Whether the employee files with the ERD or the EEOC, the complaint or charge must explain both what actions the employer has committed in violation of the law (e.g., by demoting the employing, firing her, or in some other way) and what the employer’s illegal motive was (e.g., the employee’s gender, age, race, etc.). Generally speaking, discrimination and retaliation complaints must be filed within 300 days of the discriminatory act(s) in question.

In Aldrich v. Labor & Industry Review Commission & Best Buy Stores (May 18, 2011), the Wisconsin Court of Appeals dismissed a female employee’s age and gender discrimination complaint against her employer on two grounds. First, the court said, Ms. Aldrich had failed to file her EEOC complaint within 300 days of the date on which she claimed Best Buy had discriminated against her. Second, although Ms. Aldrich attempted to include in her federal court lawsuit a claim that Best Buy had forced her to quit, her charge of discrimination (filed earlier with the EEOC) had failed to include any allegations of constructive discharge. The Court of Appeals ruled that Ms. Aldrich was permanently barred from pursuing any claims against Best Buy due to her lack of a timely complaint that contained all of her allegations of discrimination.

If you believe that you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, Hawks Quindel’s attorneys will gladly review the facts of your case, and provide you with sound guidance regarding your rights under state and federal anti-discrimination law.

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Aaron Halstead